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I Had ME/ CFS And Depression
When I got ill with ME/CFS, I was not initially diagnosed. At the time, I seemed to get every illness going. My Doctor was very sympathetic and would tell me to come back in two weeks. She would treat the next thing. But she never investigated for an underlying cause!
I was very distressed when I first became seriously ill. I was frightened of what was happening to my body, and frightened by the fearful responses of those close to me. I also had depression. Because of all these factors I sought help in the form of counselling.
However, counselling didn't help me. The counselling wasn't addressing the real problem - my physical health.
I didn't care whether I had a mental illness or physical illness. I just wanted help. I went to see a psychiatrist who told me that I was too rational to have a mental illness. And so, I started the journey out of denial into accepting I was physically ill.
In the years that followed, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephelomyelitis (aka CFS) by a number of Doctors. I had blood tests and a brain scan that showed abnormalities. Tests for allergies suggested that I was sensitive to a large range of foods.
As I took natural supplements and learned to rest, I started to
see improvements in both the Myalgic Encephelomyelitis / CFS and
Nonetheless, I continued to experience depression at times when I pushed my body or cognition harder than my body could tolerate.
Depression would arrive with the other symptoms. It was one of the first symptoms to leave as I got a chance to rest.
Unfortunately, my situation with severe chronic illness and limited support meant that pushing my body or cognition happened frequently. Depression was therefore frequent through the years of being bedbound.
Since the dramatic albeit partial recovery from ME/CFS, I have been better able to manage my symptoms. I have had only very occasional depression which has lasted only for a morning! Phew!
Thankfully, I have never had the kind of depression which makes one want to stay in bed or do nothing. I have always been motivated to keep as active as possible, even when confined to bed.
Lack of motivation is a key feature of what is normally called depression. It makes me wonder whether those with ME / CFS and depression are not experiencing depression as such, but a version of chemical upset in the brain that similarly leads to a profound dip in mood.
Having said that, it seems quite possible that someone could live with both ME / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome AND standard depression. If that is true for you, I am truly sorry that is happening to you.
In the book Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber, Ken W recounts a story which is very relevant to how to treat CFS and depression:
In order to know how to treat depression it is so important to know
whether the cause of your mental distress is physical or mental illness.
Both are OK.
You are the best judge of which one applies to you. Work on that one first. If need be, work on the other issue later.
Sadly, many people who live with both CFS and depression or other mental distress do not feel able to ask for appropriate help.
They are concerned that any therapy will not adapt itself to the physical limitations of the illness Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
In my experience, this concern is often justified.
If a therapy does not adapt itself, or does not allow a person to process their feelings about living with illness, it will not be helpful.
Of course, it may also be that such help is not within your financial means or is not available.
On one occasion I was feeling especially distressed and demoralised after an unpleasant stay in hospital. I doubted my ability to continue the hard work needed at the time for survival.
I asked a mental health therapist from the council for help. She told me that since I was not mentally ill, and was not about to cut my wrists, I was not entitled to help.
I was pleased to be told I was not mentally ill, but I badly needed some emotional support at the time.
This website is a place where it is understood that you can suffer with both Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / CFS and depression or mental health issues.
Even more importantly, when you are ill you are often dealing with so many stresses in your life that it is natural to need mental and emotional support to cope with the physical difficulties.
The need for support and even the feeling that you are going mad, doesn't mean that you have a mental illness. There is a good chance that you are showing huge mental strength every day of your life.
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